Laura Renata Martin

our void




wrinkled pit

inherited through the mother’s line


international void

carried like a steamtrunk

on a passenger ship

rio→new york→



or the papaya seed

grandma snuck in her bag

when leaving brazil

planted later in florida soil

black & glistening like nothing’s germ


intergenerational void

carried hand to hand

polished &

passed down

like heirloom candle sticks


long line of women

punched through

with a dark whirlpool

sourdough starter of voracious negation

gifted down through the years

damp in a bowl under the sink

organism that reproduces itself by tearing off a chunk

& giving it away

gelatinous mother that ferments a fizzy emptiness

none of us can fill

hibernation blues


loose hands, a limp grip:

telltale signs of a weak spirit

pens, mugs, cellphones

slip from my grasp


seems like other people move

among objects confidently

sure solidity will hold

the space between atoms won’t suddenly zoom out

making a thing mostly empty


how sometimes i dont want to love anyone

it requires an extension of the self

beyond the self

pulling water out from behind the eyes


even an orgasm is an externalization

it expends energy & life force

im hoarding mine like nuts in my den

paring down to a leaner version

language & thought condensed

into secretary’s shorthand


brief as december days

the sun edits her heat

“wish i could text you some light”

my friend in the desert writes


how i worry i dont give my dogs enough attention

i’m too distracted with my kid

that the love i give is drawn from without

rather than emanating from within

that i don’t masturbate lately

but still mostly cum when touched

(desire drawn out like sap from an amenable tree)


how walter benjamin in his letters to gershom scholem

wandered between marxist materialism

& jewish mysticism

finding metaphors for revolution in messianism

& vice versa

but had a weak grip on belief

ideas to be placed in the palm and examined

without committing to a firm hold

reading his letters i’m irritated

wanting him to take sides, choose some action

how friends said his habit of wavering doomed him

he became frozen in uncertainty

left france too late


how i want to wander among

laced intricacies of thought

read buddhism in the bath

simone weil &

stuart hall

but dont want to be a dabbler

someone to whom inconsistency is no matter

how i want a white-knuckle hold

a muscly mind with a grip of substance


how in short days & long nights

a strong spirit is a thing of value

& under this winter’s loam is a deeper strata

maybe even faith

in the possibility of overthrowing villains & money & work


fish locked under frozen water revive, & i’m

banking on the thaw


because we built the room we felt we should live in it, and living in it gave the relationship between us a certain form, and the objects in the room carved a path for us to move through, made a division between the space where we could be and the space that was already filled up, and the division defined us until the positive and negative space had overdetermined how we could move around, and therefore what we could be to each other. and the world of what we had built was like a picture that was either a vase or two silhouettes, but could never be both, because each image depended on the evisceration of the other, and all territory had been conquered. there was no no-man’s-land in the room, no uncharted space where extinct species could secretly flourish, where maps broke off into cross hatching.


so the room’s internal contradictions could never be resolved, like mao’s dialectic of flowers, the life force of the bloom a unity of opposites bursting the seed apart. the room could only end in this way, a plant surpassing the boundaries of the kernel, a slow motion demolition, papers and plaster exploding through space, books and pills and down feathers rotating past stars, the cosmic debris of our life together---because that is what the room was, it was in its nature, no matter how we saw it or described it to ourselves, it didn’t matter how we thought about the room, it could only be itself.

a history of personality (post ’45):


it occurred to some people that desire could help solve the problem of overproduction, and money was thrown into the infrastructure of the mind. personality developed passageways where none had been, like the national highways popping up everywhere, built with federal funds.


at first it was thought that there are only so many roads to build in a finite space, that people only have so many places to get to. then they saw that new places emerged along new roads, and new roads were needed to get between those places, and that concepts like “places” and “getting to” were more subjective than had been believed. within the finite was an infinity that could be mined without end, asymptote-like, approaching but never reaching saturation. so interiority kept getting more and more detailed, what seemed like a filled-in area could always be further magnified, the crosshatchings made finer. 


aerial views of the post-war brain: connections thrown up, wires vibrating beneath municipal paving, glittering clusters of free association coupling thought to thought. one of those time lapse montages, bustling with activity, the work of annihilating space by time. psychologists zoomed in on feelings ever more intricate and shaded, magnified worlds nested within the smallest cell, each as elaborate and fecund as the last. so many fine circuits burned into wrinkly plains of matter.


they declared the youth movement dead, the revolution a failure. they turned our aspirations against us, debased the gesture of aspiring in itself. spoke of “socialism in one person,” as though our desires did not require for their fulfillment the entire world. as though we weren’t already looking for a way through, a lateral rather than a vertical move, out instead of in. the highway beyond the mind, that drives off the cliff of the world.

Laura Renata Martin is a writer and community college History professor. She has published writing in Blind Field Journal, LIES, Radical History Review, and the Pacific Historical Review. Her chapbook, Enemies/Enemigos, was published by Commune Editions in 2017. She also co-hosts a podcast called Office Hours about the politics of higher education in the end times.